Azureus Debuts P-To-P Video Platform

The company's new Vuze application looks to make it easier to view high-definition licensed and self-published content online.
Start saving for a larger hard drive. The Internet video revolution is moving beyond the short clips popularized by YouTube to encompass full-length, high-definition TV shows and movies.

Azureus on Thursday announced the beta release of Vuze, a reinvention of the one of Internet's most popular peer-to-peer file sharing applications as a commercial distribution platform for HD content.

"We believe this is a very interesting way to create a new experience around long-form media," said Gilles BianRosa, CEO of Azureus.

The Vuze application, formerly called Zudeo, represents a marked change from Azureus' older P-to-P software, which required some technical proficiency to get running.

The revamped application represents an effort "to remove the concept of peer-to-peer from the user experience," said BianRosa. "It's peer-to-peer in the engine, but it's as simple to use as a media application." Peer-to-peer applications are generally considered to be the most cost effective way to distribute very large files.

Vuze looks a lot like Joost, a P-to-P media distribution software developed by the founders of Skype. It opens immediately to reveal rows of video windows and menu tabs from content partners like the BBC and the Sci Fi Channel. But unlike Joost, it's a platform that's open to all content providers, from individual filmmakers to major studios. It's not simply another Hollywood distribution channel. It's what BianRosa describes in a statement as "the integration of licensed and self-published content."

Vuze "is about enabling the unknown and new talent to come online," said BianRosa.

It's the popular, licensed content, however, that tends to generate headlines. Thus, Azureus also said today that the popular BBC television show Sorted will make its U.S. premiere on Vuze and that it had entered into an agreement with Showtime Networks to distribute Showtime's shows, including Weeds, Dexter, and The L Word.

Vuze can be said to resemble a P-to-P version of Brightcove's media publishing platform, though it's not tied to a browser-based player. That might be a liability were Vuze starting from scratch, since software that must be downloaded and installed has a long way to go to match the ubiquity of the Web browser. But earlier iterations of Azureus' software have been downloaded some 140 million times around the globe, which qualifies as an installed base of sorts.

According to BianRosa, Vuze was downloaded more than a million times in January and 2.3 million times in March. He expects far more downloads this month.

Adoption of Vuze may also be helped by the sales of the Apple TV media hub, since Apple TV buyers may be interested in more than the limited premium content sold through iTunes. The reverse may also prove to be true: Those downloading long-form content using Vuze may want to watch their HD shows in the comfort of their living rooms rather that at their desks, a feat that Apple TV would make much easier.

Content owners large and small can make free content available using a several-step upload process. Those who want to make their videos available for sale or ad-supported viewing currently have to make arrangements with Azureus directly, but within a month or so, the company expects to have an automated process in place for selling content. On April 9, Azureus plans to announce an advertising partner that will coordinate ad syndication.

As with any open platform, there's the potential for misuse. But BianRosa said Azureus has made an effort to police content from the outset, which helps set the tone that piracy isn't welcome. The Vuze community -- yes, like every other new site and application today, there's a social networking component -- also plays a role in keeping unauthorized content off the system. "We let the community actually take down content themselves," said BianRosa.

BianRosa added that his company is looking into a signature-based system for monitoring copyrighted content. Google said much the same thing about YouTube, just before it was sued for copyright infringement by Viacom.